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mali guinea

Wrapping up proceedings for Group D and the First Round of the competition, in the Estadio de Mongomo would be Mali and Guinea, again both sides with hopes of knockout football in a group unable to be separated at all at time of kick-off. In a group specialising in one-one draws both sides would be keen to secure a victory to avoid the looming possibility of lots being drawn to decide the teams to proceed in the competition.

It took only one minute for the opening chance of the game, Mali coming close to a spectacular goal, Abdoulay Diaby’s effort sailing inched over the bar. After that scare, being caught cold at the start of such an important match, Michel Dussuyer’s Guinea side went about settling themselves, passing neatly with an extended period of possession. Nerves were further settled just before the quarter hour mark when Guinea took the lead from the penalty spot. A clearance from Mali defender Sailf Coulibaly, missed by referee Mohammed Kordi was adjudged to have been via the head and hand, assistant Malik Salifu spotting and flagging the discretion. Kevin Constant, formerly of Milan, stepped up to coolly chip past Mali keeper Germain Berthe, one-nil to the National Elephants and one foot in the Quarter-Finals. The Malian response was instant with Modibo Maiga working well on the left flank before having his deflected shot headed to safety, this time referee Kordi spotting the deflection from the hand of a Guinea defender, another penalty. Up stepped talismanic captain Seydou Keita, who’s uncharacteristically poor spot-kick was dealt with easily by Naby Yattara. Maiga again was at the forefront of the Mali attack, shortly after the half hour mark, Yattara again on hand to tip over the rasping 25 yard shot. But Guinea would see out the half with their one goal lead intact, Mali with it all to do if they wanted a place in the final eight in Equatorial Guinea.

Henryk Kasperczak, the coach of Mali obviously had some wise words for his side in the half-time break, as it took them exactly one minute and twenty seconds of the second half to equalise. Maiga finally getting his reward, heading home from close range, his job made easy by a beautifully lofted cross from Abdoulay Diaby, setting up the very familiar one one scoreline. From here both teams strangely seemed to settle for the draw, a cagey second half resulting in few chances, and a busy evening for the referee with both teams drawing plenty of fouls. The best chance of the half fell to Mustapha Yatabare who’s long range effort was saved well  by Yattara, a hero for Guinea on the night once again. With both teams seemingly resigned to yet another draw, the remainder of the game was played out with both teams keeping men behind the ball and with news of an Ivorian victory filtering through from Malabo the fans and players were left in suspense, in the knowledge that it had now come down to the drawing of lots.

**And so it was, for the first time in Africa Cup of Nations history since 1988, when Algeria benefited at the expense of Cote d’Ivoire, lots were drawn to decide if Guinea or Mali would join the Ivorians in the last 8, from Group D. It was Guinea drawn on the day, seeing them through to the Quarter-Finals where they will face a resurgent Ghana side. Mali can consider themselves the unluckiest of the sides leaving Equatorial Guinea after the group stage and will perhaps be the last team to exit in this manner. Managers of both sides agreed that the drawing of lots is an unfair method of elimination and now the onus is on the Confederation of African Football to decide on a more suitable process.